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House passes FISA renewal without added warrant mandate for US data

A bill to renew a key federal government surveillance tool, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed the House of Representatives on Friday, about a week before it is set to expire.

However, House Freedom Caucus conservatives and their allies have blocked the bill from heading to the Senate. In the dramatic moments after its passage, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., raised a procedural measure objecting to the final vote count, which was then countered by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Laurel Lee, R-Fla., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio.

Now, the House must vote on whether to reconsider passage of Section 702 on Monday, shortening the Senate’s timeline to consider the bill before its expiry on April 19.

A modified version of the original bill passed a procedural hurdle late on Thursday after a group of 19 conservative privacy hawks sunk the House GOP’s chance at passing it earlier this week.

The legislation is aimed at reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the government to surveil foreigners abroad with suspected terror links without a warrant. Section 702 allows the FBI to collect communications of a narrow list of foreign targets, even if the person at the other end of the suspect’s communications is an American. 

The battle over its renewal has put Johnson in a tough spot between privacy and national security hawks within his conference, while he also navigates a razor-thin majority of just two seats.

National security hawks and members of the intelligence community have called it a critical tool for preventing another 9/11-style attack. However, critics, including both conservatives and progressives, have been seeking to limit its scope after reported instances of abuse by FBI agents to query data on Americans that already existed in the Section 702 database.

To do that, the House Judiciary Committee backed an amendment that would have required a warrant to query Americans’ data that was collected in the Section 702 system. Opponents of the measure have said it would critically hamper the intelligence community’s ability to quickly detect major threats and equated it to forcing police to get a warrant before running a license plate during a traffic stop.

It was tense in the House chamber on Friday when that amendment, which ultimately failed to pass in a 212 to 212 vote, was being considered. Johnson cast a critical and potentially decisive vote against the amendment, though a spokesperson for the speaker told Fox News Digital that he voted early on during the 25-minute window.

An unusual political scene unfurled as members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus cheered for progressive ‘Squad’ members voting in favor of the amendment.

After the vote, those same conservatives criticized Johnson for his opposition to the amendment both online and in comments to the press.

‘We’re very disappointed that when we sent Mike Johnson away from the Judiciary Committee, he departed from some of the views that he held deeply and views that, frankly, he was more eloquent in expressing than even I was,’ Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., told reporters.

The Reforming Intelligence and Securing America (RISA) Act is a compromise effort between the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees aimed at narrowing who can access communications collected, and making it a crime to misuse that data.

However, the conservatives who voted to tank the bill on Wednesday said it did not go far enough to protect Americans’ data. Many were also angry at the exclusion of an amendment by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, that would have forced the federal government to seek a warrant before buying Americans’ data from third parties. 

Opponents of the amendment argued it did not have to do with Section 702 and would have sunk the bill’s chances of passing in the Senate.

They were also backed by former President Trump, who pushed back on the RISA bill on Wednesday morning, declaring on Truth Social, ‘KILL FISA.’

House GOP leaders assuaged conservatives’ concerns by promising a standalone vote on Davidson’s amendment, though the timing of that is still unclear.

The modified legislation also shrinks the Section 702 reauthorization window from five years to two years. 

It would give the opportunity for the next administration, likely a Trump or Biden White House, to reform the tool early in the next presidential term.

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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